One year after the adoption of the European Green Deal, leading cloud infrastructure providers and data centre operators have created the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact. Twenty-five companies and 17 associations have agreed to a self-regulatory initiative to make data centres in Europe climate neutral by 2030.
Companies joining the pact represent the most significant industry players in cloud infrastructure and data centres in Europe. This is an historic and unprecedented commitment by an industry to proactively lead the transition to a climate neutral economy.
“Citizens across Europe use ever more technology to go about their daily lives and want this technology also to help secure a sustainable future for people and planet,” Frans Timmermans, European Commission executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, said. “This pledge from important parts of the data industry constitutes a promise to society and offers a welcome first step towards achieving our common ambitions for a smart and sustainable future.”
Alban Schmutz, chairman of CISPE (Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe) explained that as cloud infrastructure was the backbone of the European Union’s digital economy, the industry is committed to the idea that we must all play a central role in addressing climate change. “This commitment underpins a roadmap for Europe’s cloud infrastructure industry to offer climate neutral services to customers by 2030,” he added.
Driving sustainability through ambitious goals
The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact establishes a self-regulatory initiative that has been developed in co-operation with the European Commission. It supports both the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050, and the European Data Strategy by making EU data centres climate neutral by 2030.
The initiative sets ambitious goals that will facilitate Europe’s essential transition to a greener economy. It commits signatories to ensuring their data centres are climate neutral by setting ambitious measurable targets for 2025 and 2030 in six crucial areas: energy efficiency, clean energy, water, circular economy, circular energy systems, and governance.
Six steps to a sustainable future
- Energy efficiency data centres and server rooms in Europe shall meet a high standard for energy efficiency, which will be demonstrated through aggressive power use effectiveness (PUE) targets. By the start of 2025 new data centres operating at full capacity in cool climates will meet an annual PUE target of 1.3, and 1.4 for new data centres operating at full capacity in warm climates. Existing data centres will achieve these same targets by January 1, 2030. These targets apply to all data centres larger than 50KW of maximum IT power demand. In recognition of the European Commission’s interest in creating a new efficiency metric, trade associations will work with the appropriate agencies or organizations toward the creation of a new data centre efficiency metric. Once defined, trade associations will consider setting a 2030 goal based on this metric.
- When it comes to clean energy, data centres will match their electricity supply through the purchase of clean energy. The demand will be matched by 75 per cent renewable energy or hourly carbon-free energy by the end of 2025 and 100 per cent by the end of 2030.
- Data centres will conserve water and set ambitious water conservation targets. By 2022, data centre operators will set an annual target for water usage effectiveness (WUE), or another water conservation metric, which will be met by new data centres by 2025, and by existing data centres by 2030. The water metric target may vary depending on the data centre design specification.
- The reuse, repair and recycling of servers, electrical equipment and other related electrical components is a priority for data centre operators. Data centres will set a high bar for circular economy practices and will assess for reuse, repair, or recycling 100 per cent of their used server equipment. Data centre operators will increase the quantity of server materials repaired or reused and will create a target percentage for repair and reuse by 2025.
- The reuse of data centre heat presents an opportunity for energy conservation that can fit specific circumstances. Data centre operators will explore possibilities to interconnect with district heating systems and other users of heat to determine if opportunities to feed captured heat from new data centres into nearby systems are practical, environmentally sound and cost effective.
- From January 1st, 2021 representatives from the data centre trade associations and companies that have signed the initiative, and the European Commission will meet twice annually to review the status of this initiative. By no later than July 1st, 2023, signatories will certify adherence. The initial period of measurement will cover January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022. Following the first certification, adherence will be reported every four years.
The backbone of the digital economy
Data centres are the supporting pillars of the fourth industrial revolution and, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, are essential infrastructure of not only the digital economy but of the entire global economy. “It is our duty to commit to a self-regulatory initiative that will help to ensure the operational availability, sustainability and the future of our industry,” Apostolos Kakkos, chairman of EUDCA (European Data Centre Association), said. “The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact is the culmination of many months of work from CIPSE and the EUDCA amongst other interested parties to develop a self-regulatory initiative under which the industry will proactively work to become carbon neutral by 2030.
“The pact is extremely important. Data centres are the foundation of the digital age, without them there would be no modern world. Everything from communication to food production, to travel and distribution and almost every aspect of modern life is supported in some way by a data centre or data centres. The Cloud is entirely reliant on data centres but is equally an essential part of modern infrastructure.
“The problem that the industry has is one of perceived image – few politicians or public servants understand the service and criticality of the data centre. They see these large buildings that use huge amounts of power and, in their view, provide little benefit. Educating politicians and public servants takes time, but to have a voluntary pact that demonstrates that we are working towards carbon neutrality helps in that education and speeds up their understanding.
“It is self-regulatory because there are not enough politicians and public servants who understand the criticality and service that both data centres and cloud services provide. If the industry does not voluntarily demonstrate a desire and a roadmap towards carbon neutrality, those same politicians and public servants will draft regulation that is undeliverable or unachievable simply because they do not understand the basic function that these facilities provide to the digital world.
“Finally, it is important because climate change is real. Climate change is happening. As an industry we must strive to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as we possibly can. Data centres are good for the environment, but we must also recognise our impact on the environment and act accordingly.”